What is the general structure of any microinteraction?


  • The general structure of any microinteraction involves four key components: trigger, rules, feedback, and loops and modes, as identified by Dan Saffer in his book "Microinteractions: Designing with Details." 
  • The trigger is what initiates the microinteraction, such as a user clicking a button or a system-generated event like receiving a notification. 
  • Rules dictate the sequence and conditions of the interaction, outlining how the microinteraction should behave once triggered. 
  • Feedback is how the system communicates the outcome of the interaction to the user, which can be visual, auditory, or haptic. 
  • Loops and modes define the ongoing behavior of the microinteraction, determining how it repeats or changes under different conditions. 
  • The structure ensures that microinteractions are consistent, predictable, and meaningful, enhancing the user's experience by making interactions intuitive and engaging.

Detailed answer

According to Dan Saffer, a former Head of Product Design at Flipboard and the author of “Microinteractions: Designing with Details”, a microinteraction consists of four key components: trigger, rules, feedback, and loops and modes. 


The trigger initiates the microinteraction. It can be a user action (clicking a button, hovering over an element) or a system-initiated event (receiving a notification, reaching a milestone). When designing triggers, consider:

  • What specific user actions or system events should trigger this microinteraction? 
  • Is the trigger immediately discoverable and accessible to the user?
  • Does the trigger provide clear affordance, indicating its purpose?
  • Is the trigger placement consistent with user expectations and industry standards?


Rules define what happens once the microinteraction is triggered. They determine the sequence of events, the duration of animations, and the conditions under which the microinteraction occurs or ends. When establishing rules, ask yourself:

  • Does the sequence of events flow naturally and logically? 
  • Is the timing of animations appropriate and visually pleasing? 
  • Are there any edge cases or exceptions to the rules that need to be addressed?
  • Do the rules align with the user's expectations?


Feedback communicates the results of the microinteraction to the user. It can be visual (animations, color changes), auditory (sound effects), or haptic (vibrations). When designing feedback, consider:

  • Is the feedback timely, occurring immediately after the user's action?
  • Does the feedback clearly convey the state or outcome of the interaction?
  • Is the feedback subtle and unobtrusive, avoiding unnecessary distractions?

Loops and modes

Loops and modes determine the long-term behavior of the microinteraction. Loops define how the microinteraction repeats or evolves over time, while modes create different variations of the microinteraction for specific contexts or conditions. When designing loops and modes, ask yourself:

  • Are there any situations where the microinteraction should repeat automatically? 
  • Are loops and modes necessary for the specific microinteraction?
  • Do loops provide meaningful value and engagement for the user?
  • Are mode transitions clear and easily navigable?

If you need a real-world example, consider the classic example of the "like" button on social media platforms. The trigger is the user clicking the button, the rule is that the button changes color and displays a count of likes, the feedback is the visual change and updated count, and the loop could be a notification sent to the post's author if the user is the first to like it.

Understanding the general structure of microinteractions allows designers to create more intuitive and engaging user experiences. 

By breaking down microinteractions into their constituent parts, designers can identify potential areas for improvement. For instance, if users are not noticing a particular microinteraction, it might be because the trigger is not prominent enough. If the feedback is not clear, it might be causing confusion or frustration.

Actionable steps

  1. Identify the user action or system event that will trigger the microinteraction.
  2. Define the rules that govern the behavior and outcomes of the microinteraction.
  3. Design the feedback mechanisms (visual, auditory, haptic) to communicate the results clearly.
  4. Determine if loops or modes are necessary to enhance the microinteraction's long-term value.
  5. Prototype and test the microinteraction to ensure it is intuitive, engaging, and seamlessly integrated.
  6. Iterate based on user feedback and analytics to optimize the microinteraction's effectiveness.
  7. Document the microinteraction's structure and behavior for consistent implementation across the product.

⚠️ Common mistakes to avoid

Learning from your mistakes is important, but many problems can indeed be predicted and avoided. Based on Cieden's collective expertise, we're sharing the most common ones.

  • Overusing microinteractions, leading to cognitive overload and user fatigue.
  • Designing triggers that are difficult to find or interact with.
  • Creating rules that are complex, unintuitive, or inconsistent with user expectations.
  • Providing feedback that is delayed, unclear, or distracting.
  • Implementing unnecessary loops and modes that do not add value to the user experience.
  • Neglecting to test and iterate on microinteractions based on user feedback.

🧩 Methodologies 

These methodologies will make your job easier and more effective. 

  • Cognitive walkthrough – A usability inspection method that involves evaluating a user interface by walking through a set of tasks and assessing the ease with which users can accomplish their goals. This methodology can help designers identify potential issues with microinteractions and ensure that they are intuitive and user-friendly.
  • Heuristic evaluation – A method for identifying usability problems in a user interface based on a set of established usability principles (heuristics). By conducting a heuristic evaluation of microinteractions, designers can uncover potential usability issues and ensure that the interactions align with best practices.
  • A/B testing – A method for comparing two versions of a design to determine which one performs better based on user behavior and feedback. A/B testing can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of different microinteraction designs and identify the most engaging and intuitive variations.

🛠️ Useful tools 

These tools will make your job easier and more effective.

  • Protopie – A powerful prototyping tool that enables designers to create complex, interactive microinteractions with conditional logic, variables, and animations.
  • LottieFiles – An open-source library that enables designers to create high-quality, lightweight animations for microinteractions without requiring extensive development resources.
  • Principle – A prototyping tool that focuses on creating interactive animations and transitions. It’s ideal choice for designing microinteractions that involve complex animations and user interactions.

🤝 Credits

Our content combines the knowledge of Cieden’s designers with insights from industry influencers. Big thanks to all the influencers for sharing awesome content!

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